Improv comedian Fred Willard dead at age 86; Watch our funny ‘Modern Family’ interview from just 3 years ago

Fred Willard, the man who brought the art of dimwitted, out-of-touch comedy gold to each of his television and movie performances, is dead at age 86. The actor and comedian died on Friday in Los Angeles.

He won a Daytime Emmy Award in 2015 for his guest role on “The Bold and the Beautiful.” Willard received a Primetime Emmy nomination for the first season of “Modern Family” in 2010 to go along with three others he has in his career for his guest work on “Everybody Loves Raymond” (2003, 2004, 2005).

He first became well known to audiences in the fictional talk show “Fernwood Tonight” starring Martin Mull. In addition to many appearances on such TV shows as “The Bob Newhart Show,” “The Golden Girls,” “Murphy Brown,” and “Roseanne” (also opposite Mull), he has worked with Christopher Guest on all of his movies, including “Waiting for Guffman,” “Best in Show,” and “A Mighty Wind.”

Gold Derby hosted a chat with Willard in 2017 (watch the hilarious and insightful video above) where we primarily discussed his role on “Modern Family.” He played Frank Dunphy, the father of Ty Burrell‘s character Phil. Willard revealed, “He obviously loves me as his dad. We have the same sense of humor… I can joke with him and he’ll say, ‘Oh, Dad, cut it out. He just plays right along with it.”

Willard also chatted about whether he is allowed to use his improv skills by showrunners Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd. He said, “The first few years, do the script a couple of times and let it go wider and wider. Now it’s pretty much they shoot the script and you can get off the script. They’re not going to come up and check each word unless you make a mistake. So they’re pretty loose and give you a little room.”

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